The history of Peking Duk: An annotated photo gallery
As the long-time Australian favourites begin a new era with Chemicals, the pair reflect on the journey to this point.
Header image by Giulia Giannini McGauran and Daniel Boud.
It's wild to think that despite the imprint they've made in Australia's dance music and festival circuits, that Peking Duk have only been around for seven years. It was an instant reaction - their breakthrough single, High, also being their debut - that hasn't fizzled at any point over the last near-decade, as the duo have continued to evolve themselves and their sound (as well as their infamous live show) with every release; single after single furthering their status, as the duo climb to the heights of Australian dance music (all without an album under their belt, no less).
A quick and over-simplified recap: As Australian dance music battled a new spark lit by now-pioneers like Flume, Peking Duk emerged at a perfect time. High was a great progression for dance music, capturing the synth-y madness of the time but with an anthemic, festival-ready pop edge. In the years following, songs like Take Me Over and Say My Name continued to showcase that; the pair of Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles enlisting guest collaborators - Elliphant, SAFIA, AlunaGeorge, Icona Pop, Cloud Control, Jack River, The Wombats - who would feel elevated over their productions, rather than drowned out by the madness.
With every song they put out, Peking Duk would get a little better. They'd veer between flashes of EDM, house music, pop, indie and beyond, growing their songwriting and productions to the point where they'd develop a greater emphasise on live musicianship, something which crossed over into their live show too. At one stage, a Peking Duk live show was a loose club set, but before long, it became a full spectacle; live vocals and live guitar having just as much of a presence as the confetti cannons and mic antics that would take place. They've been there throughout the peaks and valleys of Australian dance music, all while showcasing it on an international scale with shows at Coachella and Lollapalooza - as well as basically everywhere else, too.
In 2021, that's continuing. Their new single Chemicals is the beginning of what feels like a new era for Peking Duk, even though they didn't really go anywhere their year prior (hello, three songs throughout 2020). Australian super-writer Sarah Aarons jumps on board for what feels like the family getting back together again - the pair collaborating in the past, too - but with a slight greater sense of polish and refinement, tapping into the chemistry they have with one another on both a personal and musical level.
The end result is something that just works, but also, it always really has. Peking Duk's production hits yet another new height, as Sarah's vocal lays somewhere between intimate and passionate; full of life and energy, but draws from something personal underneath that gives it this cathartic and anthemic-like quality. "Chemicals was born from a gloomy Melbourne’s day with the incredibly talented Sarah Aarons," the pair say on the single. "I feel like every time we get in the room together the chemistry feels right and there doesn't feel to be any pressure to create something it more so just flows out. We ironed out the ideas together that day then took the beat away with our boy Styalz and completely flipped it to what you hear now."
There's something so refreshing about Chemicals that makes it feel almost like a new beginning - a new chapter - for Peking Duk. So, with that in mind, we thought it'd better to reignite one of the best chemicals - serotonin - with an annotated walkthrough of Peking Duk's highlights across the years, as the duo look backwards and commence to move forwards, into what seems to be a very exciting future ahead.
Take a dive into Chemicals below, and find the annotated gallery underneath:
The history of Peking Duk, as told through photos:
This was our first festival tour ever and as you can tell by our faces we were shocked, excited and confused as to how it was all happening but more grateful than we had ever been before. We had no money so we made pull up banners to sit behind us instead of visuals, which in hindsight made it look like a business conference but my lord it was the sweatiest business conference in history.
2014 was a crazy year. We had just dropped High and we got booked to play a bunch of festivals which was new and outrageously fun. Along the way we got to meet many other artists that we ended up collaborating with such as Kite String Tangle which is in this pic here. A legend of a dude at a legendary event. Splendour is forever in our hearts.
There's a reason why Coachella has so much hype... cos it's fucking incredible. We were lucky enough to play the Sahara stage in 2015 and had the time of our lives. We brought Ben from SAFIA with us and got Overdoz on stage to rap whilst drinking tequila and partying with the crowd the whole time. Young, dumb and full of fun.
Lollapalooza really is one of the most beautifully insane settings for a giant music festival. Smack bang in the city of Chicago on a beautiful day we played some of the wildest DJ edits we'd made and got the whole crowd involved. It was a glorious day we spent hanging with DJ Snake and other dope artists. Love chi town forever.
What more needs to be said apart from we thought these were the OG Wiggles until we sobered up.
This is from our very first live show as Peking Duk. We had been DJing for roughly 8 years at this point, but had always wanted to do a live show... where we could recreate all the sounds live on stage. With DJing there is little that can go wrong and the sound is always perfect so it's great but nowhere near as challenging as live. bands like Blink 182 and Metallica are the reason we first ever picked up guitars so we dreamed of using them in our shows.
Holding the bass high and mighty hahahaha. I don't think I could honestly believe the moment that was occurring there and then. Playing live was already a dream but to play live in front of a crowd like that.... we felt higher than Elton John in the 80s.
With a live show comes many more performers than just the two of us... we had Joel Farland - our drummer - performing for the entire set, we also had singers like Michaela Baranov, Ben Woolner from SAFIA, string and trumpet players, Vera Blue, Dan Sultan, and we even bloody flew AlunaGeorge all the way from the UK just for this debut live performance!
The post-debut-live-show cool off... If things couldn't get better, we had Richard Kingsmill out of nowhere approach our dressing room to congratulate us on the show. Moments like that stick around in your head forever. t\That guy has seen a lot of live music and to get cheers from him, well, we were on quite the Elton-in-the-80s high of all highs.